8th May 2020

A Call to Persevere – Building Pastoral Resilience in a Crisis

For pastors in Victoria and right around the world, let me just come right out and state the very obvious… Things have changed dramatically in recent times! I know it’s not a new piece of news but it needs to be said.  And for pastors, there have been so many significant changes to the way we minister, that it is important to stop for a moment and acknowledge this.

You can most likely identify with the following…

  • I have not been able to meet personally with the people I pastor
  • I have had to learn new ways of communicating to the church, and to do it more often
  • I have had to change the way I prepare for Sundays in order to adjust to online services
  • I have seen what other pastor are doing online & there is the opportunity to compare like never before
  • I have been at home more and my routines, disciplines and boundaries have needed to adjust
  • I have had to work harder to collaborate and have had to make more decisions on my own
  • I have started to think about what I need to do differently when the restrictions are lifted

These changes are real and have left many pastors feeling fatigued as a result of all the decisions they have had to make, emotionally drained as they feel like they are always trying to catch up, and physically tired as they wonder how long they can sustain this level of challenge. This is the reality for many pastors.

So now, perhaps more than ever, we need to hear anew the call of God’s word to us through the writer of the letter to the Hebrews…

“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

While the events threatening to stop the recipients of the letter from persevering were persecution and the trials of life in their day, we face challenges and changes that can cause us to feel like we are unable to go on. But God wants us to persevere, to keep going, to run the race marked out for us.

Now is the time for pastors to have resilience more than ever. It’s the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, from challenges. Just like the “slinky” toy many of us had when we were growing up, resilient pastors spring back and resume their original form after stretching. They don’t give up, they endure, and they prevail in the midst of adversity. How can we ensure that we are resilient in these times?

Remember – God got you into this!

God has called you to run.

It is God who got you running this race. You believed the gospel, you responded by faith and began the journey as a follower of Jesus. You surrendered your life to him. And now you are a pastor and you are running this race. People are looking to you. God called you and has equipped you. You must persevere. Until God makes it clear you have completed the race, keep running.

You have a call and a sense of purpose, so remember that “the one who called you is faithful and he will do it.” (1 Thess. 5:24) It might just be the right time to retreat and spend a half or full day in prayer. On this day, why not reflect on how God called you initially into pastoral ministry, give thanks and praise for all that he has helped you through in the past, and ask God to help you, to strengthen you, to give you wisdom, to empower you and to fill you in the light of this current challenge. Remember that God’s grace is sufficient, and that when you are weak, you are strong in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 12:9-10). 

Remember – Comparison Kills

God’s has marked out the race for you.

“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

As churches have started streaming their weekend services online, many pastors have had their very first opportunity for a long time to see what other churches are doing and to compare themselves with other pastors & churches. It’s possible to see the sermons other pastors are preaching, how they pray, how they lead. We can end up feeling all kinds of regret, inferiority and inadequacy. But the writer to the Hebrews says that we are all in a race, but it is one that he has marked out for each of us. We don’t run the race in the same way as someone else does. Run your own way in this race, the way marked out for you. Run with the unique gifts, skills and experiences he has given you. Craig Groeschel has said, “The fastest way to kill something special is to compare it with something else.” Don’t waste time comparing yourself or your church with others. If you keep looking around, you’ll run off course. Run your race with all that you have for God’s glory. Be yourself, everyone else is taken!

What are your strengths? Build on them. What gives you joy? Work toward those things. What are the unique needs in your church and your community? Ask God to help you meet them. The race is before you. Run your unique way. You have something special as a pastor to offer the people God has entrusted to you. We’re cheering for you!

Remember – Look to Jesus

“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing your eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Look to the One who called you to run.

When we fix our eyes on Jesus, we can experience the fullness of God’s grace poured out on us. We may have failed, stumbled and fallen so far short of our hopes and expectations, but at the cross as we see Jesus, we can declare with boldness, “I am forgiven, I am accepted, I am redeemed, I am called.” This fills us with joy.

When we fix our eyes on Jesus we see his example of how to persevere. The cross of Christ reminds us of the terrible suffering Jesus faced which was not only experienced physically but also in taking upon himself the sin of the world. Still, the promise of future joy provided Jesus with the strength to suffer. We are called to help pastor flourishing churches. What a joy it will be to see lives changed and communities impacted. Keep your eyes on Jesus as you run and don’t give up!

Resilience Resources

We need resilient pastors who persevere in the face of great challenge. Now is the time to build your resilience. The BUV has great resources to help you and I want to point you to a number of them.

  1. Rev David Devine has presented a Professional Standards Workshop that can be completed online for maintaining your accreditation. It is called Resilience for Pastoral Leaders and is very helpful.
  1. Maintaining supportive relationships is a key to building resilience, and the most significant relationship that many pastors have is that with their spouse. That is why the Marriage Course is being offered to pastoral leaders with Rev Dr Bill and Julia Brown hosting the course. This course started last Wednesday (6th May) but if you are quick you can still join in and catch up on the first episode. Sign up here…
  1. Pastoral Clusters are operating right across Victoria using ZOOM to connect, encourage and offer peer support. Contact your regional pastor for information about when the next one is happening near you.
  1. I attended the online The Resilience Webinar hosted by Partners in Ministry with Mark Connor and Psychologist Dr Grant Bickerton as guest speakers, the full webinar is available here on demand. I found the webinar very helpful and would recommend it to you.
  2. Life Therapies Victoria, an organisation founded by psychologists and members of New Community Ringwood Baptist Church, has a number of video and PDF resources on wellbeing and resilience – http://www.lifetherapiesvictoria.com.au

Together as Baptists on mission we can not only persevere through this time but I believe we can prevail. Remember that God got you into this, that comparison kills and that Jesus is the one to keep looking to at every step of our race. There will be great joy when we meet Jesus face to face one day and we celebrate together! 

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